HOYLAKE, England — Even after his worst 72-hole finish in a major, Tiger Woods said he would pick himself for the Ryder Cup team.
His first major of the year, and second tournament since March 31 back surgery, wasn’t much of an audition for US captain Tom Watson. Woods was never the same after opening the British Open with a 69. The mistakes kept piling up, and so did the big numbers, and he closed with a 3-over-par 75 Sunday at Royal Liverpool.
‘‘I just made too many mistakes,’’ Woods said.
He finished at 6-over 294, matching his highest score in the British Open. Only three players had a worse score, including US Open champion Martin Kaymer, and Woods finished in 69th place. His previous worst was a tie for 40th in the PGA Championship last year and the 2012 Masters.
Woods wound up 23 shots behind Rory McIlroy, by six shots his worst deficit ever in a major.
He didn’t even beat the 64-year-old captain. Watson birdied his last hole for a 68.
‘‘It’s just one day. It’s a snapshot,’’ Watson said. ‘‘It’s not a big deal.’’
Still, the concern was clear. Watson was speaking to the media as Woods was still on the course when he asked if Woods was shooting under par. Told that he was 4 over at the time, Watson said, ‘‘That’s not very good.’’
Woods still has two tournaments left before the end of Ryder Cup qualifying at the PGA Championship. He is No. 72 in the standings, and aside from winning the final major of the year, his best bet is to be one of Watson’s three picks.
Asked if he would be inclined to pick himself if he were in Watson’s position, Woods said with a smile, ‘‘I would say yes.’’
‘‘But that’s my position, my take on it,’’ Woods said. ‘‘He’s the captain. Obviously, it’s his decision. He’s going to field the best 12 players that he thinks will win the cup back. And I hope I'm on that team.’’
Woods is unlikely to make the FedEx Cup playoffs unless he picked up top-3 finishes at Firestone and the PGA Championship, and that means Watson would have to judge him on those tournaments unless Woods plays elsewhere. Europe isn’t appealing, with events in Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Italy.
‘‘It would make it tougher for me to pick him if he’s not playing,’’ Watson said.
Watson is more inclined to see more from Woods before a rush to judgment. Woods has played only six rounds since back surgery to alleviate a pinched nerve that forced him to miss three months, including two majors.
The scorecard showed two triple bogeys and three double bogeys. He said his return at Congressional three weeks ago, where he missed the cut, was at least a chance to make sure he was pain free and shake off some rust.
The rust is still there
‘‘I was certainly expecting it, yes, but I just thought that I know how to play links golf,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I know how to grind it on these golf courses, and hitting the shots I thought I could get around here. I did the first day. After a bad start I got it back. And unfortunately, as I said, I made too many mistakes with the doubles and triples.’’
He said he remained encouraged — the same word he used when missing the cut at Congressional — and even said he could see comparisons to these last two tournaments with a rehab assignment for a baseball player.
‘‘There’s a lot of things I need to work on, but I haven’t been able to work a lot,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I was down for three months. So I'm just now starting to come back . . . I'm still building. I'm still working on my game. And I'm getting stronger and faster.’’
Woods has missed only one Ryder Cup since his first one in 1997. That was in 2008, when he missed the second half of the season with reconstructive knee surgery. He was a captain’s pick in 2010 by Corey Pavin, following a year of personal turmoil that led to divorce and the hiring of a new swing coach.
Woods went 3-1 in Wales, his best performance in a Ryder Cup.
He was confused talking about that year, saying he was coming off an injury and missed most of the summer. That actually was the following year, when Fred Couples picked him for the Presidents Cup team. Either way, Woods felt he could contribute to the team and ‘‘that’s all you want as a pick.’’
Second best again
Sergio Garcia doffed his cap, patted his heart, and blew kisses to the crowd surrounding the 18th green after clinching what ultimately would be a fourth second-place finish at a major. Another close call for golf’s nearly man, but there were no tears and no regrets this time. Just pride at ensuring this was no runaway for McIlroy. Garcia said ‘‘everyone looks at a second and wants to make it a negative, but I did almost everything I could.’’ Starting his final round seven shots back from McIlroy, the Spaniard closed to within two strokes of the Northern Irishman on four occasions over the back nine. Taking two shots in a greenside bunker at No. 15 virtually ended his chances of a stunning comeback. ‘‘There was a better player,’’ Garcia said after his 6-under 66. ‘‘It’s as simple as that.’’ . . . For the second time this summer, Rickie Fowler played in the final group of a major championship, failed to overcome a big deficit, and settled for the runner-up spot. That’s OK. Fowler all but locked up a spot on the US Ryder Cup team, which is a pretty good consolation prize. Besides, Fowler is only 25. If he keeps getting himself in the mix, it seems only a matter of time before he finally breaks through for one of golf’s biggest titles. For now, he'll have to settle for being only the third player to shoot four rounds in the 60s and not win the claret jug. Fowler closed Sunday with a 67, finishing two shots behind McIlroy. ‘‘It’s hard to be disappointed about it,’’ Fowler said Sunday night, not long after accepting the runner-up plate, ‘‘because it was such a great week.’’ He certainly didn’t fold. Fowler saved his best for last, closing Sunday with a 5-under 67 and not one bogey on his card. The 15-under 273 total left him tied with Garcia. ‘‘I'll take 15 under in a lot of majors,’’ Fowler said. ‘‘Congratulations to Rory. He played awesome.’’
Phil Mickelson had another good Sunday in the British Open, this time a 68 that at least ended on a positive note and allowed him to pick up some Ryder Cup points. Mickelson was more concerned with his play than the points. ‘‘I don’t want to look at it and think about it too much,’’ Mickelson said. ‘‘If I play like I did this week at Akron and the PGA, I'll be fine. I'll be on it. But it would be beneficial for both me and Tom if I can do it on my own.’’ . . . McIlroy was not the only winner Sunday. The BBC said McIlroy’s father, Gerry, and three of Gerry’s friends placed a combined bet of 400 pounds (now $680) in 2004 on McIlroy winning the British Open before he turned 26. McIlroy was 15 at the time of the wager and is now 25. The odds were 500-1, so the syndicate looks to collect 200,000 pounds ($340,000) now that McIlroy has lifted the claret jug.